August 20, 2015
Television shows, particularly the sitcom genre, have attracted broad audiences throughout American television history. Sitcom is a genre of comedy that shows characters sharing the same environment and consists of humorous dialogues and narratives. In the 1950s and 1960s, American sitcoms portrayed traditional American middle-class families living in the suburbs. I Love Lucy is one of the best domestic sitcoms that have aired. The TV show is a story about Lucy, a humorous and wacky housewife, and her husband Rickey who is a bandleader in a Cuban music band. The showrunner/creator of this TV show was Desilu Productions, which was founded by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The main starring casts were Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball), Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), Fred Mertz (William Frawley) and Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance). I Love Lucy was an original story that aired from October 15th, 1951 to May 6th, 1957 on CBS. Moreover, this sitcom was originally in black and white. However, six classic episodes of I Love Lucy were filmed in color, and after the programs ended, this sitcom re-aired for several years in color between 1957 and 1960. Considering the modified versions, this show aired for almost 10 years. Also, considering “syndicates” in television industry, there were various commercials, which sponsored I Love Lucy: Philip Morris cigarette commercials, General Foods for Sanka, Ford Motor Company, and Westinghouse Company. Those commercials were put in the opening sequences. Unlike many other TV shows that aired in the 1950s, the radio pilot shows for I Love Lucy were created after I Love Lucy aired on TV. Since the main purpose of radio shows was editing the sound for television shows, radio shows were not aired in the 1950s. We can still hear radio shows playing on local stations today.
I Love Lucy follows typical characteristics of sitcoms. Firstly, the most recognizable characteristic of sitcoms is a laugh track, the sound of an audiences’ laughter. This enhances the liveliness of the program. Considering the fact that most TV shows were live in the golden age of TV, the laugh track had a significant role in giving a present feeling to audiences. For example, “Lucy Gets Caught In The Draft” (The Lucy Show: Season 5, Episode 9), which originally aired on the November 14th, 1966, is a funny episode where Lucy gets accidently drafted and becomes a Navy officer because of mistaken paper work. In this episode, there are several moments that laugh tracks were used. For instance, when Lucy visits the general about the paper, when she meets a doctor for a health check, and when she is eventually trained in Navy we can hear laugh tracks. Moreover, I Love Lucy follows the standard plot of sitcom. For 1950’s domestic sitcoms, events often take place when characters leave their homes, and they struggle with problems like Lucy does in I Love Lucy. Additionally, the ending of this episode definitely shows the idea of back to normalcy, which is a well-known characteristic of sitcoms. No matter how Lucy experiences weird and unrealistic happenings, she always and suddenly returns to ordinary life at the end in every episode. Specifically, in “Lucy Gets Caught In The Draft”, during her training, the government letter arrives and all mistakes are resolved so that Lucy can go back home.
Not only does I Love Lucy contain many sitcom characteristics, but also it formed new characteristic of Sitcoms, which is using three cameras. In the 1950s, most sitcoms were filmed live. Similarly, I Love Lucy was set in an apartment building in New York City and a live audience was watching in the studio. However, unlike other TV shows, I Love Lucy was one of the first sitcoms that used three cameras to record the episode. Instead of using 16mm film, 35 mm film was used for multiple cameras, which were set up for a live studio. Since three cameras were used for one shot, they were able to obtain various shots for a single take. After I Love Lucy, using three cameras in sitcom genre became standard even today. Even though this sitcom was released in 60 years ago, I Love Lucy is still famous and well loved.